5 reasons why Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal should be India's front-line spinners in ODIs
With one eye on the 2019 World Cup in England & Wales, the Indian selectors have infused freshness into the ODI team's bowling attack by including the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Even though the selection committee tried to explain the continued omission of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the garb of 'rest', it is quite apparent that they have started looking past the experienced duo following their disappointing performances in recent times.
During the 5-match ODI series in West Indies as well as in Sri Lanka, both Kuldeep and Chahal have made a marked difference to India's bowling attack. Capable of operating in tandem, the duo are rapidly forming a dangerous spin combination in the limited-overs formats.
Here are five reasons why India should persist with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in ODIs.
#5 Exotic style and enterprising variations
Kuldeep Yadav is a rare chinaman exponent in Indian cricketAn element of mystery adds considerable variety to any bowling attack. In Kuldeep Yadav, India have finally unearthed a chinaman exponent.
Those of his ilk are such a rarity at the international level that batsmen often find it difficult to adapt to the exotic style of bowling on display.
The left-arm wrist-spinner can also turn the ball both ways and maintain a sense of stranglehold on most batting lineups.
Meanwhile, Chahal is a typical modern-day leg-spinner. Unlike his more fancied predecessors, the 27-year old does not deceive batsmen by generating surplus flight.
Yet, he has the ability to outbox his opponents by bowling a tight channel and relying on subtle variations. Armed with a googly which is becoming increasingly dangerous, he is tough to get away with.
#4 Finger spinners becoming obsolete now
With pitches getting flatter day by day and boundaries being shortened on an alarming basis, the current limited-overs arena is becoming a nightmare for finger-spinners. While the consistency in line and length continues to make them a menacing proposition on viciously turning tracks in Test cricket, the white ball has converted off-spinners and conventional left-armers into obsolete entities.
Realising that their stocks are diminishing rapidly, finger-spinners are feverishly working on improving their batting and fielding in order to add value to ODI teams. The ICC's ruthless crackdown on illegal bowling actions and the controversial nature of the doosra have reduced the potency of off-spinners in the current era.
#3 Genuine wicket-taking threat in middle-overs
One of the major advantages of preferring wrist-spinners stems from their discernible capacity of picking up crucial wickets at various stages of the game. With the vast majority of modern-day limited-overs affairs being played on flat tracks across the globe, leg-spinners can extract turn on even docile surfaces and consequently produce valuable breakthroughs in the middle-overs phase.
While Chahal has picked up 14 wickets from 8 ODIs at an average of 21.07 and accounted for 14 wickets from 7 games at an average of 15.50, Kuldeep has taken 13 wickets from 8 ODIs at an average of 20.77.
The chinaman bowler also showed his versatility when he ran through Australia's top-order on a non-responsive pitch in the Dharamsala Test earlier this year.
#2 Emergence of Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav
Between 2013 and 2016, both Ashwin and Jadeja were regular starters in the 50-over format. Alongside their commendable performances with the ball during that particular time period, the duo also lent balance to the playing eleven by strengthening the lower-order.
While Ashwin could stick around and accumulate useful runs on difficult tracks, Jadeja's big hitting capacity came in handy in the death overs. The left-armer also made a telling difference in the field.
However, the recent emergence of the likes of Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav means that India can now pick bowlers solely on their prowess with the ball.
Adding MS Dhoni's renaissance to the mix, India's lower-middle order looks adequate and does not need further enhancing. If skipper Virat Kohli wants to play five specialist bowlers, Pandya can be promoted up the order to change the team combination.
Jadhav's handy part-time off-spin can also provide a sixth bowling option. This is in stark contrast to the team's rather predictable combination containing two spin all-rounders during the 2013-2016
#1 Poor form of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja
Since the conclusion of the 2015 World Cup, Ashwin has picked up 17 wickets from 15 ODIs at an average of 40.58 and strike-rate of 45.4. In the same time period, Jadeja has scalped 12 wickets from 17 ODIs at an average of 67.83 and strike-rate of 77.5.
Even though their economy-rates hover around the 5.30 mark, the spin duo have not been able to deliver game-changing spells whenever the situation demanded them to.
There is no doubting the duo's prowess in Test cricket. In fact, they are the major reasons behind India's metamorphosis into the number one ranked team in the game's traditional format. However, their performances in ODIs have dipped in recent times.
This was evident during the 2017 edition of Champions Trophy wherein they struggled to make an impact.
Weighing all factors, it is apparent that Kuldeep and Chahal have earned the rights to at least make extended auditions for becoming India's lead spin pairing in the 50-over format. The next few ODI series should reveal a clearer picture surrounding the Indian team's spin combination.